High Traffic Lawn Options: What Are Some Lawn Alternatives In Play Areas

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By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

An alternative lawn grass is not a new concept, but what about those high traffic areas? You know, the places where we entertain the most or the little ones play about. Let’s explore lawn alternatives for heavy traffic areas like these.

High Traffic Landscaping Alternatives to Grass

Grass lawns are high maintenance with mowing, watering, fertilizing and edging, and they are expensive to keep pest and weed free. If you are looking for a lawn that is practically maintenance free and inexpensive, there are a few alternatives you can choose from. Before you make any decisions regarding replacing your current lawn there are some things to consider.

There are many ways to landscape your yard so it can be functional, low maintenance, and beautiful. Do you like to entertain and grill? How about a fire pit and patio furniture? Maybe you would like a vegetable garden, or kid friendly substitutes like a play structure complete with swings, slides and monkey bars.

Lawn Alternatives for Heavy Traffic

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Heavy foot traffic on your grass can cause problems and lead to an unsightly lawn. However, there are high traffic lawn options to combat heavy traffic areas and still maintain a natural, lush looking yard that is easy to care for, especially if you have kids.

Planting different ground covering plants, such as dichondra, that have self-seeding flowers and kidney-shaped foliage is an option. Other plant alternatives are chamomile, which is mat forming and has white aromatic flowers, or creeping thyme, which is another beautiful and aromatic ground covering plant.

Options like sedge, moss, and clover thrive without fertilizers, require less water than grass, and rarely need to be mowed.

Lawn Alternatives in Play Areas

If you are looking for kid friendly lawn substitutes, cover the ground area with wood mulch or with rubber mulch that comes from recycled rubber. Add a play set, volleyball net, and corn hole set for a wonderful outdoor recreation area. Let the kids run, play and tumble around without wearing holes in your lawn.

Other lawn alternatives in play areas are synthetic grass, which doesn’t wear away like mulch and is hypo-allergenic, or how about planting ground coverage like Texas Frogfruit, an evergreen that spreads heartily and attracts butterflies. What kid doesn’t like chasing after butterflies in their own backyard? This ground cover can tolerate drought and flooding and works well in warm temperate regions, plus it is hearty enough for the wear and tear of child’s play.

Eco-Lawn, developed by Oregon State University, is a good choice for sunny footpaths or play areas too. Eco-Lawn includes English daisy, yarrow, strawberry clover, Roman chamomile and perennial ryegrass. Once established it needs little summer water and, due to the clover, requires no supplemental fertilizer.

Replacing Your Lawn with a Patio

Maybe you would like to have a smaller lawn. A great option is to create a patio. You can do this with patio stones or bricks and line the perimeter of the patio with potted plant and tall grasses; this adds beauty and color to your yard. Add a fire pit in the center of your patio and you’re ready to grill and entertain.

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